The 2001 Tour of Spain starts this weekend and it kicks off with a 12.3km time trial around the town of Salamanca. As ever the race gives the Spanish riders the chance to shine on home soil and foreign riders the opportunity to salvage a poor season. In almost identical fashion to last year, the 2001 edition contains 21 short and sharp stages fought over 23 days. The climbing will again start early this year with a mountain top finish on stage five and five more throughout the race.
The riders will also battle it out in Andorra, the place where Jan Ullrich paved the way for Tour de France glory in 1997. The heavy terrain will certainly cater for the likes of defending champ Roberto Heras, Tour of Italy winner Gilberto Simone and Kelme’s young leader Oscar Seville.
Despite this the race also contains nearly 100km of time trial. So the likes of Abraham Olano will be hoping to take as much time out of the climbers as possible. Double Vuelta winner Alex Zulle, will be striving to recover the form that has deserted him since his second place in the Tour de France in 1999. Last year’s runner-up Angel Casero of Festina will be another trying to go one better and the Spaniard has the double responsibility of also trying to gain a contract for next year.
Although there’s no Armstong and Ullrich the race is still rich with contenders. Heras, Zulle, Gotti, Pantani, Olano and Simone have all won major tours, so you can bet that there’ll be fireworks in the next three weeks.